FAO and Partners call for Innovative solutions to Agricultural Production

Ramallah /PNN/ Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have underscored the need to promote technology, innovation and highly impactful solutions as a necessary step towards improved production, sustainability and long-term development of the Palestinian agricultural sector.

This was discussed during a round table workshop on “Reviving the Agricultural Sector through Knowledge Transfer and Innovation”, which was jointly convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), Portland Trust and other key partners. The objective of the workshop was to initiate discussions on innovative solutions to agricultural production and to facilitate an exchange of ideas, knowledge and experiences between researchers, development institutions, academia and different key partners from the agricultural sector that were present.

In his opening remarks, FAO Head of Programme Azzam Saleh highlighted the importance of approaching innovation in a multi-faceted manner, “Innovation is a complex process because any problem related to the production of food is multi-dimensional requiring the engagement of all actors and stakeholders including policymakers, civil society, donors, farmers, private sector and researchers. Innovation in agriculture is not limited to technologies; it entails also social and organizational change for the better”. “FAO is committed to continue working with all partners in this direction,” he added. Saleh encouraged participants to be open minded in how they approach issues of innovation.

Hassan Ashqar, Director General of Policy and Planning at MoA, stressed the importance of innovation in Agriculture with the unique political context in Palestine. “Palestinian farmers have no option but to continue being innovative to protect their rights and entitlements to their land and livelihood”, said Mr Ashqar.

Zayed Fadda, Director General of NARC commented on how innovations in the agricultural sector are key to maintaining social and economic stability in Palestine. “We need to find means on how we can be more efficient in production; promoting sustainable agriculture requires a renewed focus on innovation and investment in research, technology and capacity development”, he added.

For his part, Yaha Shunnar, Managing Director of Portland Trust reiterated the importance of knowledge transfer and innovative solutions for the establishment of an effective Agriculture Knowledge and Information System (AKIS). Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) comprise the institutions and organizations that generate and disseminate knowledge and information to support agriculture production, marketing, and post-harvest handling of agricultural products and management of natural resources. Most AKIS projects support agricultural research, extension, or education activities, which are increasingly viewed as components of an inter-related system. As the world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion people in 2050, an AKIS is an essential component to increasing the productivity and the profitability of farmers, helping them meeting the rising global food consumption needs in a sustainable way.

The one-day workshop, which was attended by over 50 participants, provided an opportunity for different partners in the agriculture sector to discuss issues that are crucial to the improvement of coordination, knowledge sharing and innovation in the Palestinian agricultural sector.

Increasing capacity to prepare and manage plant pests and animal diseases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

In another issue the occurrence of transboundary plant pests and animal diseases poses grave socio-economic consequences as it affects food and nutrition security, human health, livelihoods, trade and economic development.

In an effort to raise awareness on emergency management principles necessary to effectively manage plant pests and animal diseases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), organized a Good Emergency Management Practice (GEMP) workshop from 9-11 July 2018. The main objective of the GEMP workshop was to enhance preparedness, planning and response to plant pest and disease threats towards the goal of protecting crops and livestock to sustain livelihoods and food security.

The three-day workshop, supported by the government of France, gathered 17 participants from different sectors within the Palestinian Authority including the Agriculture Department, Veterinary and Quarantine Services, Pesticides laboratory, and the National Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The workshop provided a unique platform for both plant health and animal health officials to share their experiences in disease management, including challenges faced in accessing required funding to ensure timely responses to disease outbreaks.

Participants agreed on the urgent need for swift and coordinated action to deal with threats and acknowledged the benefit of training and the benefits of integrating the agriculture and livestock sectors to increase experience sharing on technical matters. The meeting also identified gaps in early warning systems, response, preparedness, contingency planning, including information dissemination and effective coordination and proposed a number of interventions to close such gaps and possible solutions to fund emergency response and to boost critical research areas, which can provide a better understanding of plant and animal pests and diseases.

“Plant pests and animal diseases, if not adequately addressed, can have serious consequences on the food security and livelihood resilience of people living under protracted conflicts, like the situation in Gaza Strip,” stressed Azzam Ayasa, FAO Head of Programme in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “FAO is committed to continue working with its local and international partners to strengthen local capacities in the field if Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary services to protect both food producers and consumers.”

The highly participatory workshop highlighted the importance of a multi-sectoral coordination for agriculture and livestock sectors in increasing the capacity of farmers in the West Bank and Gaza to respond and manage plant pests and diseases.